Trains not right way to chase your blues away

2017-12-21 06:00
OPINIONAthenkosi Sawutana

OPINIONAthenkosi Sawutana

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I was feeling kind of blue recently and not wanting to be a spoilsport, decided to take a train ride; to nowhere in particular. Up until then, I hadn’t used the train for about a decade.

My ever cautious sister had been warning me about the violence and chaos on trains. So on Friday morning I decided to ignore her warnings to satisfy my craving for a train ride.

However, what transpired during the journey left me agog.

Children as young as 10 years were swinging in the rails, running from one carriage to another. Young men who were apparently going to initiation school were chanting and waving sticks around. We stopped at Philippi station to pick up more commuters. There was plenty of space where I was seated but a woman told her daughter to move further from the window because a brick from nowhere could easily land on her head. I was shocked. I regretted my earlier decision.

“Yes, they can even snatch that beautiful hat of yours, ” said the woman with the child. The breeze coming through the broken window panes was welcome on a sultry day like that but it didn’t stop me from asking what happened to the windows. The whole carriage had no window panes. It was as if someone had removed them to make way for new ones.

By the way, I hadn’t paid for the ride., because when I got to the kiosk at the station, the ticket office was closed. Fellow commuters told me I would pay at my destination. I watched children playing at the station and hopping on the train. I imagined the worst things that could happen to those kids.

When I arrived at Cape Town Station, I bought a ticket ffrom Mandalay, for which I paid R10. After paying I thought what would have happened if I had lied about my place of departure. Would I have paid a lesser price?

Straight from there I went for the My City ride. It was a completely different experience. I received what I felt my Metrorail experience should have been like. I bought a card for R35 and loaded it with another R35 worth of points. They told me I had to present the card whenever I decided to use the bus service. I wondered why Metrorail cannot copy this method. People were adhering to the rules. No one was eating, or smoking. The only problem I had was with the standing passengers.

Fast forward to my return to the train. I decided to give the train another chance. By this time it was peak hour; people returning from work. I asked the guard for a ticket and she said it was going to cost me R5. I was surprised, because I had paid double that amount earlier on. The lady put the money into her pocket and told me that she had run out of tickets to issue and instead pointed me towards the platform from which to wait for my train home. The experience that I had on my way to town was nothing compared to what lay ahead. Commuters were exiting the train through the window sockets. I understood why they were doing this, because the aisle was jam-packed and people become annoyed when they are asked to give way. I wasn’t hit with a brick on my head but it almost happened. I heard something hitting the train and I saw splinters of stone falling and I thought everything that I was told was true. My sister had warned me about this reality , which is the daily life of train commuters. Added to that, the train was jerking all the way, and I prayed it doesn’t stop in the middle of nowhere. I’m still feeling kind of bluer than blue.


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